Law Student Perspectives: Rounding Out My 1L Year with a Writing Competition

By Jacob Samules-Kalow, Student at Fordham Law School

The end is near….The thought that dominates all 1Ls as they move from reading period into finals: “All I have to do is make it through this and it’s going to be OK.” Finals hit, rampant panic, reviewing, trading outlines, late night study sessions fueled by anxiety and coffee. And then, a sigh of relief, the pop of champagne corks and the end of 1L year…or is it? Lurking in the shadows, waiting to bring back the stress – the much dreaded writing competition prepares to strike! At Fordham, the writing competition lasts from Sunday at 6:00 p.m. until Thursday at 6:00 p.m. The 1Ls head back to the library they left just a few short days before and try for one last sprint to qualify for a journal. The semester may be done, but the competition is just heating up.

Our writing competition consisted of two mandatory exercises. One was to edit and citation-check an excerpt of a journal article prepared for the exercise. The second was a closed-universe writing assignment whose written product has to be a 10-page note in response to about 200 pages of research materials selected and culled by the upper-class students administering the competition. Students also have the opportunity to write personal statements for journals in which they are particularly interested.

As all this comes at the end of 1L year, there is a strong desire to just sit on the couch and take a nap rather then get back to work, but from what we have all been told, it’s worth the extra week of stress to be in a journal. For most of 1L year, I kept telling myself this experience was a marathon, not a sprint. But the writing competition is a sprint. You have just a few short days to read the materials, identify the issues, draft a note, and then go back and proof your writing and check all your citations. And don’t forget the bluebook exercise…I can’t speak to the experience at every law school, but from having spoken with colleagues elsewhere, it seems the 1L writing competition is just the last in a list of hurdles before you get to that first summer of law school.